Monday, January 16, 2017

The “Dot” Debacle

  I recently had a (“newer”) brush calligraphy student object, if not “protest” over my critique of their use of the same “dot” (exclusively) within several different kanji, and often when utilized multiple times within a kanji that contains multiple versions of the “Dot” strokes. Knowing the individual's inclination to “short-cut” (anything) whenever they can, I wasn't surprised by their outcry, only disappointed that I had failed to convey the principle sufficiently to them with my tutelage.
  I believe this student is additionally a “victim” of the (majority of) brushed “Chinese” kanji dictionary's that I have encountered (and own). I'm aware that they have one as well (and regularly utilize it). The majority of “Chinese” kanji dictionaries that I've seen, are inclined to (only) utilize “1” type/style of “dot” in their kanji reproduction. In regards to “reading” the kanji, it makes no difference. But in regards to Shodo, (aesthetically), it does. It needs to be remembered (and was pointed out to the student), that the practice of “Shodo”, is a visual art/practice.
  The recognized Shodo master's of the past (and present) provide unique variances to their individual pieces. The style I teach is that of the Nihon Shuji (Japanese Calligraphy Association), within their style of brushing, they teach 8 (variations of) “Dot's to utilize within the Japanese kanji. It (soon) becomes apparent, that within those kanji that have “multiple” dot's, each of those utilized are different.
  The inclusion of those “different” Dot's, is what adds to the uniqueness of the individual kanji. It also aid's in maintaining the student's focus while brushing the kanji. It's easy for the student to become obsessed with the longer strokes (which do warrant attention), but the dot's can (often) “make or break” the final version of the produced kanji. Dot's can add personality to the piece and convey the desired attitude (of/for the brushed kanji), depending on “how” those dot's are brushed (thick/thin/angled/curved, etc.).
  When every “dot” is reproduced in the “same” manner, that task is more difficult (and gives the produced kanji, a “manufactured” look). The Japanese have an affinity for “Nature” (and those things that at least “appear” to be naturally occurring). “Uniformity”, is a manufactured result (it rarely occurs in nature). This could be why the Japanese (prefer?) that different dot's be used? Regardless, the utilized Tehon (clearly) example those dot's within them, a student should not make an “assumption” that the dot's utilized are all brushed in the same manner. A large part of a student's practice, is learning to recognize variations in the exampled strokes. The dot's are as important as the longer pulled strokes.
“Dot's” utilized in the Nihon Shuji style of Brush Calligraphy:

 The Mother Dot

 The Profile Dot

The Dragon's Claw (Dot)

 The Apricot Seed (Dot)

 The Plum Stone (Dot)

 The Turtle's Head (Dot)

 The Hatchi Contraction
(This is a combination of variation's for the Dragon's Claw & the Profile Dot's)

  The following combinations are not "official" Dot's, but are commonly encountered within numerous kanji.

 Radical 10 (at bottom of a kanji)

 Radical 12 (at top of a kanji)

 Radical 85 (on Left side of Kanji)

 Radical 86 (at bottom of kanji)
 As can be seen, the dot's utilized "could" have been brushed alike, but the variation adds to the kanji (which they are utilized within when used in this combination).

 These are the 2 "Whips" taught within the Nihon Shuji Strokes.
The upper one is used in one of the examples above, the lower one is seen in numerous kanji.

 This Left Sweep is also "not" (officially) a "Dot", though it is often utilized in a similar fashion to one, as seen above.